Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t have a TV, and I rarely let my older kids watch movies. Nevertheless, over the past few months, the amount of screen viewing (iPhone) kept gradually increasing, until one day, I realised that the older kids (8 and 6) were spending over an hour and sometimes two hours in front of a screen. And, my little one, who isn’t even 2, had used the phone enough that he could turn on the phone, open the app he wanted and play or watch something (and I’m so against letting little ones on screens)! Unfortunately, even he was spending 30-45 minutes in front of the screen per day. Things were really hectic for a while and I was using the screen as a babysitter to try and get stuff done.
But, what’s ironic, is that when I gave my kids the phone, even though I could get stuff done, the aftermath was never worth it! They would get bored, act crazy, whine and FIGHT and the hour or two of ‘peace’ backfired ten times and then we spent the day feeling all scattered and disconnected.
So, I had had enough! We needed a break! It wasn’t a punishment, it was an agreement. Actually, my 6 year old was HAPPY to have the break. The older one wasn’t so much… but wait until you read the last dot point on the list.
Our screen ‘ban’ was not a total ban. That would have been too unsustainable. We were still allowed to use it for practical things, like looking up stuff on the internet, calling the grandparents on Skype, taking photos, etc. I also didn’t ban myself from screens… so oops! Probably this ban could have been better, but I definitely limited myself and only used the screen for work or for a short amount of time doing other brain numbing activities, like social media.
Almost all of these dot points are ones my kids came up when we talked about the results of our screen ban.
- They virtually stopped fighting (actually, I heard one or two during the whole week, but we homeschool and they’re on top of each other all day, so fair enough).
- They almost completely stopped whining.
- They cooperated better.
- They were less bored.
- They stopped looking for distractions. My oldest is the worst with this. If she can’t watch her screens, then she asks for food, friends to play with, all in that order! But, during this week, all of that stopped.
- They played more with their toys and stuff around the house.
- I had more time! Yes, can you believe it?! I’m not sure how this worked… but I think it’s because I was more connected to them, and they weren’t as needy.
- My house was more peaceful.
- They ‘behaved’ better. Not that they’re out of control to begin with, but the biggest change was in my son. Little ones are so so super sensitive to screens! And, he would get all crazy if he watched even for a little while.
- They ate better (presumably because they were more active and their minds were more settled).
- We spent more time doing fun stuff! ‘Cause sitting on your butt around the house and watching shows on the iPhone isn’t actually that fun…
- More time connecting, which = better behaviour
- We were late less often! This one surprised me. If they ever got sucked into the screens before we had to leave somewhere, it would take so long to get them unglued and fully functioning for us to get out of the door.
- They were more creative.
- They played better together… held hands and did cutsie stuff that normally never do.
- My son was less aggressive and destructive.
- My son’s speaking improved dramatically (in one week… really).
- My son made it to the toilet more often.
- They put on dance shows and did more craft.
- They fell asleep more easily and slept more peacefully.
- They read more books.
- Their reading improved dramatically. (In one week… really…)
- At 22 1/2 months my son FINALLY started walking (could have been a coincidence, but still, it happened during the screen ban).
- My 6 year old FINALLY learned how to swing herself (coincidence again? could be…)
- They ENJOYED the break and asked for another week break in three day’s time!
It could have been a pure coincidence that all of my kids had huge developmental leaps during their screen break… but I have to wonder how screens were not helping anyone all that time. On the week that our ban was over, my 8 year old, the one who I knew would be feeling the screen ban the most, actually said, “Can we use the phones for three days and then have another week break?” My eyes nearly fell out of my head! I’m sure she might say something different after a few days, but her response was epic.
I think that taking breaks from screens are going to be a thing in our house from now on. While, I won’t ban them permanently, I will definite be more mindful and not use them as a crutch so often. We’re a tech friendly family, and I love how technology and screens has enabled us to do things we could never do before. I also DON’T feel guilty about the time that I let my kids use screens. At the time, maybe it was necessary to get me through a short period of chaos.